Transformative Technology Needed?

The United States, and much of the Western world, has gone badly off the rails on the subject of energy. Obsessed with CO2 emissions, a minor factor in the Earth’s climate, Western policymakers have turned to archaic technologies like wind energy as though they were futuristic. The Science and Environmental Policy Project comments:

Energy expert Mark Mills has produced five parts of a series in Real Clear Energy discussing the tremendous demands for electricity from developing electronics and associated high-tech equipment. The development of “smart” technology and artificial intelligence will place burdens on the grid that renewables cannot meet. Among the critical requirements for data centers, and other “smart” centers is that electricity must be reliable. Wind and solar are not, and battery back-ups are quickly depleted. The power demands are too great.

Mills summarizes his views in another article stating an energy revolution will not come from renewables. He states:

If we want a disruption to the energy status quo, we will need new, foundational discoveries in the sciences. As Bill Gates has put it, the challenge calls for scientific ‘miracles.’ Any hoped-for technological breakthroughs won’t emerge from subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads. If policymakers were serious about the pursuit of the next energy revolution, they’d be talking a lot more about reinvigorating support for basic science.

There has been a number of comments made about ExxonMobil giving $100 million to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and other DOE laboratories with emphasis on “developing transformative advanced energy technologies with a focus on reducing emissions.” However, based on reports much of this money will be going into failed technologies such as “biofuels, carbon capture and storage technologies.” One wonders if anything really transformative will come from this research.

The idea that batteries will somehow make intermittent energy sources like wind and solar reliable is fanciful. There is, however, a newish technology close at hand that could solve any problems relating to power generation without–unlike wind and solar–emitting CO2, if you think that is important. That technology is nuclear energy. For an extended discussion of how nuclear energy can save countless billions or trillions of dollars, see this report.

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